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Home Care for Children with Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder in which red blood cells become C-shaped. This causes impaired blood flow, pain, and other health problems. Symptoms usually show up by about 5 months of age.

Although a child who has sickle cell disease should be under a healthcare provider's care, parents can do many things at home to reduce symptoms and maintain the child's health.

Take steps to prevent infections

Contagious diseases like the flu can be dangerous for children with sickle cell disease. They, as well as their caregivers and family members, should wash their hands several times a day with soap and water to reduce the spread of the flu virus and other germs. Children with sickle cell disease are also vulnerable to illness from a bacterium called salmonella. To avoid salmonella, they should avoid eating raw or undercooked meats and eggs. They should also avoid touching reptiles. They can carry the bacterium. Make sure your child's immunizations are up to date.

Take fevers seriously

Mother checking temperature of her child

If your child has a fever of 101°F (38.3°C), contact your child's healthcare provider for advice. Resist the temptation to simply treat your child at home with fever-reducing medicines. The fever could be a sign of a more serious complication. If your child has no fever but does not look well to you, trust your instinct. Call your healthcare provider right away or bring your child to the emergency room. 

Be aware of your child's surroundings

Extremely hot or cold temperatures may trigger a sickle cell crisis. This is a sudden episode of pain throughout the body. To keep your child's body temperature at the best level, always make sure he or she wears a coat during cold weather and spends as much time as possible in air-conditioned areas on hot days. Staying well-hydrated in hot weather may reduce the risk of a sickle cell crisis. 

Learn how to manage pain

Children with sickle cell disease will sometimes experience pain episodes. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about the best ways to handle these episodes at home. It may be appropriate to give your child pain-relieving medicines like ibuprofen for mild episodes or stronger pain relievers for more severe flare-ups. Heating pads, warm baths, and massage may also be soothing.

Maintain healthy habits

Make sure to introduce healthy practices into your child's daily life. Drinking plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration and eating a balanced diet are important. Children with sickle cell disease should also participate in physical activity and stay active. Rest breaks are advised, though, to avoid working too hard or becoming overly tired. 

Reach out to support groups

Children with sickle cell disease, particularly teenagers, may have a hard time coping with their condition because of delayed puberty. They may also feel anxious about having sudden pain episodes. Support groups for children with sickle cell disease can be helpful in learning ways to cope with these situations. Also, these support groups can be helpful for simply sharing their worries with peers who have similar concerns and feelings. Ask your child's healthcare provider or your local hospital for advice on finding a group in your area. 


Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Levy, Adam S., MD
Last Review Date: 06/01/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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